Speech by the Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, at the launch of the United Kingdom/South Africa Social Worker Exchange Programme for the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA)
3 Feb 2011 Programme Director,
Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni, Councillor Mondli Gungubele
HWSETA Chairperson, Ms Sharon Slabbert,
The leadership of Skills for Care,
The CEO of HWESETA, Mr Corrie Smit,
The Director-General of the Department of Social Development, Mr Vusi Madonsela,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We meet at the time when the hand of nature has brought destitution to our shores as a result of the natural disasters. The poignant pictures and visuals we usually see in international news bulletins about the effects of such disasters have now come to mirror our own society.
In addition to this humanitarian crisis, there are also persistent social ills including poverty, HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence as well as substance abuse – all of which are putting serious strains to the social work profession.
Accordingly, this situation compels us to seek and explore ways of increasing both training and capacity in the social work profession, to ensure that we meet the demand for such services.
This is precisely because it is through this noble profession that we can advance the principles of social justice among our people, for them to swim out of the pool of poverty, destitution and vulnerability.
Today, we are opening a new chapter, which is in line with the ethos of our government on the importance of partnerships in confronting the many challenges facing our country.
We know as a matter of fact that these challenges require skilled and competent personnel that will use its knowledge and competencies to advance the country’s development agenda.
On this day, we are unveiling an important partnership initiative – the United Kingdom/ South Africa Social Worker Exchange Programme between the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) and the Skills for Care from England.
Through this programme, we seek to identify and link professional social workers and representative stakeholder councils and associations into an international action learning forum.
Such a forum will then compare and develop best practice models of social work delivery and practices in both England and South Africa. It is our undertaking that the findings emanating from such exposures will inform skills development strategies in both the workplace and educational institutions in both countries.
Our objectives, through this international social workers exchange programme, are to:
- Exchange social workers from both countries for a month period each year;
- Bring together a collective of informed professionals and associated stakeholders to exchange ideas and experiences at the end of the exchange month;
- To facilitate an interactive system of peer support and action learning forums;
- Share, compare and contrast current models of delivery in each country;
- Explore the training and qualifications of social workers including opportunities for orientation, continued professional development and transferability of skills, knowledge and experience between countries; as well as
- To record and share the outcomes from this learning with relevant stakeholders looking further to develop social work services in both countries.
Based on these objectives, there are particular outcomes that we expect from this exchange programme.
Among other outcomes, we want to increase the knowledge, awareness and understanding of how social work services in each country are designed, delivered and serviced. In this context, we will focus at the highest level on the changing demand and design aspects.
This will include workforce development issues such as the image and status of social work, recruitment and retention, training and qualification frameworks and opportunities for continued professional development as well as transferability of skills, knowledge and experiences.
The initial phase of the project has identified the following research topics which will be adopted by the steering committees for this programme:
- Case load management,
- Specialisation within the social work profession,
- Quality systems focusing on improved service delivery,
- Training and development models and best practices;
- Non-governmental organisation (NGO) participation and voluntary self-regulation,
- Quality systems focusing on service delivery,
- Information management systems and quality, as well as
- Inter-disciplinary approach top norms and standards.
In this regard, the outcomes of these research topics will enable each country to describe and evaluate their own models in terms of how social work is organised and delivered.
This process will adopt a modular approach with the view to help us build upon and deliver on the challenges or reforms outlined by our work. Therefore, it should include such modules that respond to the most pressing questions facing the social work profession.
These include the questions of: how to best attract entrants to the profession; how to ensure practice competence; how to ensure newly qualified social worker support; how to ensure appropriate supervision; how to deliver services which take into account whole family issues; as well as how to develop career pathways to keep career practitioners in the frontline.
To us as South Africa, this initiative will consolidate our measures in a quest to stabilise the provision of social work services in the public sector in response to the huge demand for such services.
In this regard, we are working with the Association for South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) who constantly work hard to produce quality professionals.
We have no doubt that our partnership with ASASWEI provides a fertile ground for this international exchange programme to yield the desired outcomes.
We have also introduced the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD), which is aimed at preventing mass exodus of social workers from South Africa to other countries.
The OSD for the social development sector seeks to improve the remuneration of social service professionals through benefits such as a unique salary structure, improvement in career paths, increased promotion opportunities and recognition of relevant experience.
While this speaks to the improvement of working conditions and remuneration of our professionals, we still have a task to attract potential social work students into the profession. Our scholarship programme, which is implemented as per the recommendation of the Recruitment and Retention Strategy, is part of the efforts to address the shortage of social workers in the country.
This programme is also inspired by the African National Congress's (ANC) resolve, which found expression in our government, to open the doors of higher learning for poor students.
In conclusion, I want to thank the leadership of the HWSETA and Skills for Care, for finding a common ground which will be of paramount beneficial to our country, especially poor communities who need social work services.
We wish you well and we remain confident that this partnership is a true avenue to respond to the social problems of our times.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
3 Feb 2011
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